Wang Ping (Three Kingdoms)
|Senior General Who Guards the North|
243 – 248
|Vanguard Supervisor of the Army (前監軍)|
243 – 248
|Vanguard Protector of the Army (前護軍)|
238 – 243
|Administrator of Hanzhong (漢中太守)|
? – 238
|General Who Pacifies Han (安漢將軍)|
? – 238
|Rear Controller of the Army (後典軍)|
? – 238
|General Who Attacks Bandits (討寇將軍)|
228 – ?
Qu County, Sichuan
|Courtesy name||Zijun (子均)|
|Other name||He Ping (何平)|
|Peerage||Marquis of Anhan|
Wang Ping (died 248), courtesy name Zijun, was a military general of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period of China. Originally a military officer serving under the warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han dynasty, in 218 he defected to Cao Cao's rival Liu Bei, who later became the founding emperor of Shu, during the Hanzhong Campaign. During his service in Shu, he steadily rose through the ranks to become a senior general. The highest position he reached was Senior General Who Guards the North (鎮北大將軍).
Wang Ping was from Dangqu County, Baxi Commandery, which is around present-day Qu County, Sichuan. He was raised by his maternal family, whose family name was He (何), so he was also known as He Ping. He presumably changed his family name back to Wang in his later years because historical records show no consistency in recording his name. It could also be possible that his name was changed to Wang Ping posthumously.
Service under Cao Cao
Wang Ping started his career under Du Huo (杜濩) and was appointed as an acting colonel when he accompanied his supervisor to visit the Han imperial court. In 217, when Cao Cao's rival Liu Bei launched a campaign to seize control of the strategic Hanzhong Commandery, Wang Ping joined Cao Cao's forces as a subordinate of Du Huo to counter Liu Bei's invasion. Around 218, when the situation became highly unfavourable for Cao Cao's side because they were running short of supplies, many of Cao Cao's soldiers started defecting to Liu Bei's side, which could provide food and shelter to them. Wang Ping was one of them.
Service under Shu
Liu Bei welcomed Wang Ping and appointed him as a Major-General. During his 10 years of service under Liu Bei and later under Liu Bei's son and successor Liu Shan, Wang Ping did not make any significant achievements.
In 228, when Zhuge Liang, the Imperial Chancellor of Shu, launched the first of a series of military campaigns against Shu's rival state Cao Wei (founded by Cao Cao's son Cao Pi), Wang Ping served as a subordinate of the Shu general Ma Su, who led the vanguard force to attack the enemy at the Battle of Jieting. As Ma Su's subordinate, Wang Ping advised his superior against camping on top of a hill away from water sources. Although Ma Su rejected Wang Ping's idea, he still put Wang Ping in command of a detachment of troops and let him set up a camp below the hill. As Wang Ping foresaw, the Wei general Zhang He led his troops to cut off the Shu army's access to water sources and surround them on the hill. Upon receiving news of Ma Su's dire situation, Wang Ping led his 1,000 troops to the hill and ordered them to beat their drums loudly to create the impression that reinforcements had arrived. Zhang He probably mistook the drum sounds as a signal for ambush units, so he did not attack in Wang Ping's direction and pulled back. Wang Ping was thus able to regroup Ma Su's remaining troops and gather the Shu army's scattered supplies. In the aftermath of the loss of Jieting, Zhuge Liang had Ma Su executed for his blunder but he promoted Wang Ping for his courage.
In 231, when Zhuge Liang launched the fourth campaign against Wei, he tasked Wang Ping with greater responsibilities by ordering him to guard a hill located south of a Shu fortress at Lucheng (鹵城). When the fortress came under attack, the Wei general Zhang He led his men to attack Wang Ping, but Wang Ping managed to hold off the attack and drive back Zhang He. After Zhuge Liang's death in 234, Wang Ping received credit for his effort in quelling Wei Yan's alleged mutiny and was appointed as the Administrator of Hanzhong Commandery under the supervision of a senior Shu general, Wu Yi.
Following Wu Yi's death in 237, Wang Ping replaced him as the overall-in-charge of military affairs in Hanzhong Commandery. The Shu emperor Liu Shan also enfeoffed Wang Ping as the Marquis of Anhan. In 244, the Wei regent Cao Shuang led some 60,000–70,000 troops to attack Hanzhong Commandery. Wang Ping's subordinates, feeling intimidated by the sheer size of the enemy force, urged their general to vacate the area for a more concentrated defence in the rear. However, Liu Min, one of Wang Ping's subordinates, insisted on following the defence arrangements previously set up by Wei Yan (when he was in charge of Hanzhong Commandery) to resist Wei invasions. Wang Ping agreed with Liu Min and ordered the troops to advance to Xingshi and occupy a mountain. Although he had only 30,000 troops at the time, the enemy did not know the strength of his army. Liu Min also ordered the Shu troops to erect a flow of flags and streamers across the mountain to create the impression of a large army. As both sides were unsure of the real strength of each other's army, they hesitated to engage in battle. While Cao Shuang was stuck in a dilemma between retreating and attacking, Shu reinforcements led by Fei Yi showed up at Xingshi. Cao Shuang had no choice but to order a retreat.
Appraisal and death
As Wang Ping came from a humble background and had spent most of his life in the military, he received very little education. He could not write a single word and could read only a mere 10 words or so. Whenever he needed to write reports, he would let his clerk do so for him. As he feared that others would ridicule him for his poor language skills, he often gave the excuse that he was there to fight and not write. However, he enjoyed listening to stories and was an excellent oral narrator.
Wang Ping was known for his self-discipline and strictness; he never cracked jokes. Apart from narrating stories, he hardly spoke and might simply sit in his command tent from morning until dusk and then fall asleep. Trifles of Wang Ping (the northern commander) was comparable to that of Deng Zhi of the east and Ma Zhong of the south.
Wang Ping died in 248. His son, Wang Xun (王訓), inherited his marquis title and marquisate.
In Romance of the Three Kingdoms
In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Wang Ping was given a fictionalised and more prominent role in the Hanzhong Campaign, opposing Xu Huang's tactics and defecting. Xu Huang wanted his army to cross the Han River and battle Liu Bei's forces on the other side. Wang Ping warned that it would be impossible to retreat once they crossed the river, as the river would significantly slow down the retreat and they would be vulnerable to enemy fire. Xu Huang claimed that the soldiers would fight to the death and have no need to retreat if they were in a dire situation (in conjunction with the tactic by legendary Western Han dynasty general Han Xin, where he purposely placed his army near a river in order to unleash their full potential). Wang Ping then claimed that Han Xin only used that tactic because the opposition had no strategist to see through it, but Liu Bei's army had the support of Zhuge Liang, who would be able to easily see through this tactic. Xu Huang refused to listen and, as expected, suffered great defeat. He asked why Wang Ping did not come to his rescue, and Wang Ping replied, "If I came to rescue you with my portion of the army, then our main camp would have had no protection; I warned you multiple times against crossing the river, but you did not listen, which resulted in this defeat." Xu Huang was greatly angered by this and planned to kill Wang Ping that night, however the plan was leaked out and Wang Ping set the camp on fire and defected to Liu Bei's side.
- (随杜濩、朴胡诣洛阳，假校尉， ...) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (十五年，进封安汉侯，代壹督汉中。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (平生長戎旅，手不能書，其所識不過十字，而口授作書，皆有意理。使人讀《史》、《漢》諸紀傳，聽之，備知其大義，往往論說不失其指...然性狹侵疑，為人自輕，以此為損焉。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (遵履法度，言不戲諺，從朝至夕，端坐徹日，懷無武將之體。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (是時，鄧芝在東，馬忠在南，平在北境，鹹著名跡。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.